Theatre Mirror Reviews - "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown"

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entire contents copyright 2011 by Tony Annicone

"You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The second show of Summer Stage's 12th season is the 1999 revival version of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" which is based on Charles Shultz's beloved "Peanuts" comic strip. The revival opened on February 5, 1999 and made a star of Kristen Chenoweth, winning her the Tony Award for best featured actress where she played the role of Sally Brown. The show takes us through an average day in the life of Charlie Brown. The audience catches glimpses of their favorite characters and includes many moments from all the days of his life from Valentine's Day to baseball season, from wild optimism to utter despair. They include all of his friends, both human and non-human and strung together on the string of a single day, from bright uncertain morning to hopeful, starlit evening. Director Davis Alianello infuses this show with high energy from start to finish with his talented 35 member cast while music director Richard Sylvia conducts his six piece orchestra with Joe Fielding as the pianist while Richard plays the synthesizer. Richie taught the glorious music to the cast while choreographer Teresa Pearson comes up with some creative dances for them.

Davis makes the show sparkle and shine with his inventive blocking of each vignette. Richie makes them sound topnotch in their songs and his orchestra complements the performers without overpowering them. Some of Teresa's excellent dances include the opening number, the blanket song, the Beethoven song, the baseball song and the show stopping "Suppertime". This hard working cast does a dynamite job with her dance steps. Jason Leclair built the set while Karen Brunelle designed all the lovely costumes for the show.Tom Buanamano stage manager keeps the kids on their toes and production manager Alex McKhann keeps everything organized for smooth run of the show. Leading this 35 member cast is Christian Dessler as Charlie Brown who is a multitalented performer. He captures the essence of the character with wonderful facial expressions to display his various emotions of hurt, disappointment, longing and eventual happiness. Christian's comic side comes through in the lunch scene with the paper bag on his head, in the kite scene and in his interactions with Snoopy and the other characters in the play. Some of his solo moments in songs include "The Kite", "The Book Report" and "The Baseball Song". Christian's strong voice sells all these numbers he is in. Maggie Dunleavy plays Lucy, sings "Schroeder" song while he plays The Moonlight Sonata, about marriage. Maggie best scene is the crabbiness survey. She sings "Little Known Facts" to Linus as Lucy teaches him that snow falls up and hitting your head on the bark of a tree makes it grow faster.

One of the biggest scene stealers in this show is Ron Kitts as Snoopy. He sings, dances and acts up a storm while wearing a dog suit. Ron has many funny one liners and makes all of them count. His "Snoopy" number when he wants to bite someone and the Red Baron monologue about shooting down his World War 1 triplane are hoots as is the rabbit hunting scene with Sally. Ron's "Suppertime" is topnotch and stops the show with his terrific rendition while he is backed up with a chorus line of exuberant dancers. Another scene stealer is Kathleen Radigan as Sally. She sounds terrific and her "My New Philosophy" number stops the show with her fabulous voice. Kathleen also shows off her voice in the "Home on the Range" number when she finds out Linus called her an enigma. She also delivers her many funny lines beautifully especially when Sally is upset by getting a C on her hanger design as school and when she demands that Snoopy help her in hunting rabbits.

Alexander Breault plays Schroeder excellently. He not only gets to sing a solo in "Home on the Range" but in the newly created song for the revival called "Beethoven's Day" where he wants the principal to declare a new holiday. It is a rock number mixed with some of Beethoven's musical sections interspersed in it and is sung and dance to by the impressive chorus with some of the best harmonies in the show. Alexander also excels in "The Book Report" segment where he sings Peter Rabbit being similar to Robin Hood which is hilarious. Peter Mancuso is topnotch as Linus. He does a soft shoe to "My Blanket and Me" with chorus girls doing a ballet and Charleston to it. Peter sings the philosophy section of "The Book Report" song. Davis adds four characters to the show Marcie. Peppermint Patty, Pigpen and Woodstock played by Isabella Fielding, Alex Andrews, Brian Duranleau and Molly Gregory. He gives them their moments to shine in the show especially in the megamix finale. So for a topnotch rendition of the beloved characters from The Peanuts comic strip be sure to catch "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" at Summerstage.

"You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown" (28 to 31 July)
@ 2615 Warwick Avenue, WARWICK RI
1(401) 739-3450 ext. 172

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide